La Cañada Flintridge’s City Hall is moving to the Town Center, a “more strategic location,” Mayor Jonathan Curtis called it.
The city announced last week that it agreed to purchase the former Sport Chalet office building for $11.23 million. The purchase follows a recommendation by an ad hoc committee comprised of citizens, Realtors, city staff and consultants, as well as the completion of a 90-day due diligence that analyzed physical, legal, environmental and suitability factors.
LCF will pay La Cañada Properties Inc. a cash deposit into escrow of $5.65 million with the balance carried on a two-year, interest-free promissory note that will allow the city to consider various alternatives for paying off the balance without incurring additional costs or charges. Those alternatives will include options for the sale or lease of the current City Hall building at 1327 Foothill Blvd.
La Cañada Properties is the company belonging to the Olberz family, who founded Sport Chalet in 1959 in LCF.
The family, who built the Town Center in 2008, sold the shopping mall to IDS Real Estate Group in 2011 but retained ownership of the office building. In late 2015, La Cañada Properties approached the city about buying the building.
The move from the current City Hall headquarters (a cramped 7,160 square feet) to the facility at One Sport Chalet Drive (with 27,881 square feet) will allow the city to address deficiencies in office space, meeting rooms, staff work areas, ADA accessibility and parking. The city will consider revenue-generating options for excess space, according to a release.
City Manager Mark Alexander said he and his colleagues appreciate the community’s desire to maintain small, efficient government, and that the new setting will help in that regard.
“While still in the concept, design and planning stages, I am anticipating that our physical layout can be more strategically designed with greater access between departments that interact frequently,” Alexander wrote in an email. “So, for example, a person needing to do business with Planning and Building and Safety will have both departments within proximity so that they can dialogue without having to go back and forth between upstairs and downstairs and staff will be more accessible to quickly answer questions or resolve issues.
“Likewise, having Public Works and Planning within proximity would allow for greater communication and coordination on issues that need to be addressed by both departments.”
The extra space also will allow for better small meeting facilities. At present, City Hall has only one conference room for staff meetings that can hold a maximum of 12 people “tightly,” Alexander said. Additional square footage will provide comfortable space for a range of situations, including reviewing plans, discussing city procedures or requirements, negotiating matters, conducting interviews and having round-table discussions.
LCF staffers also will work to update technological enhancements and increase efficiencies in its new space, Alexander said.
“Our new [Geographic Information Systems] and tracking system, accounting software upgrade and potentially other systems will be implemented,” Alexander said, adding the public can also expect “better WiFi for the community’s use while visiting City Hall, and possibly kiosks integrated with the city’s website strategically located for the public’s use.”
In the purchase, the city also takes possession of the adjacent Montessori school located on the same parcel.
According to the release, La Cañada Properties approached the city soon after learning that it was interested in potentially acquiring properties to use as a new City Hall. The office building became available after Sport Chalet’s parent company, Vestis Retail Group, announced that it was closing the sporting goods retail chain in June 2016.
The 45,000-square-foot Sport Chalet store next door to the office building remains vacant and without a tenant. As for Olberz Park, the grassy area in front of the office building, there are enhancement plans that will be intended to complete the vision for the new civic center, the city said.